Boys will be boys, especially in Vegas, and no one parties like a team of Hot SEALs with a night’s liberty but Navy SEAL Craig Dawson finds that some bets follow you home. . . . and sometimes all the way to the Middle East. But when they are as sexy as the antiquities professor he's ordered to escort, he doesn't mind.
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Craig swirled the ice and amber liquid in his glass on the table, listening to the three SEALs from the other unit talk.
“Murphy’s team is still over there going door to door. Block by block. Street by street. Taking back one neighborhood at a time.”
“It’s a slow process. It all looks the same when you’re there in the shit. Sometimes the only way to see that we made any damn progress is by looking at the map in the war room.”
“But there is progress in Mosul. We saw that when we were there. Every day the red area on the map gets a little smaller and the green zone increases.”
“Yeah, but still, being back in Iraq, fighting for a city we’d already fought for, it was like we slipped in a fucking wormhole and went back in time to a decade ago.”
“Back to when we took Fallujah.”READ MORE
“You mean when we took Fallujah the first time. Not to be confused with when we had to go back and retake it again last year.”
“Kind of like taking Ramadi in oh-six, and then again in twenty-sixteen.”
The two older guys from Tompkins’ unit spoke mostly to each other, volleying the memories back and forth like a ball on a ping pong table.
“Except this time the man who’s protecting your six is just as likely to be a foreign national as an American brother,” Tompkins pointed out as he joined what had mostly been a two man discussion.
“Yeah.” The guy they called Fitz for short nodded. “There is that. But I think after two years of ISIS rule, even us Americans are starting to look pretty good to the local army in comparison.”
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Clyde, the other older SEAL, quoted.
“Ain’t that the truth?” Fitz laughed. “And thank God for it because with all the different factions fighting ISIS and fighting each other, it’s getting hard to keep them all straight and know who to shoot.”
“Except that we’re only in Iraq as advisors. Right? No boots on the ground.” Tompkins grinned and glanced around the table.
There were nods from the other two.
The talk of battles that these guys had personally fought back in 2006 kept Craig quiet. He wasn’t about to remind them the only fighting he’d done that year had been on the playground in middle school.
For that fight he’d gotten dragged into the principal’s office. These guys had taken fire and likely still carried the shrapnel. They’d lost friends and teammates. All he’d lost was recess privileges for a week.
He also felt the need to stay mostly quiet since he was the only one there not from the other unit. That really wasn’t an issue, except in Craig’s own mind. They’d welcomed him to join them when he’d shown up with Tompkins.
They all knew each other casually since his unit and theirs had trained together that week in the Nevada desert and the units worked together on occasion.
But he didn’t have much to contribute to this particular conversation as two of the older teammates reminisced about the past.
They probably shouldn’t be talking about this anyway, given where they were. The four of them—the two old timers, Craig and Tompkins—sat at a corner table and the noise from the casino surrounding the bar made the chance of anyone hearing them slim, but Craig still erred on the side of caution when discussing ops. Even ones that happened a decade ago.
“Hey. Looks like the show is letting out.” Tompkins tipped his chin toward the public area outside the bar.
Craig twisted to look in the direction Tompkins had indicated and saw a steady stream of women being funneled between the slot machines and the brass rail that delineated the confines of the bar where they sat.
All chatty and animated, the women certainly looked as if they’d just been to the show in the theater located farther down this end of the building.
He turned back to face the table and said, “Doesn’t mean they’ll come in here.”
“Oh, no?” Tompkins grinned. “Look again.”
Craig didn’t have to turn again and look to realize what Tompkins said was correct. The noise level around him had suddenly increased by a few decibels and it had a distinct feminine sound to it. Giggles. Squeals. And lots of scraping and shuffling as the ladies moved available chairs to empty tables, trying to create a spot of their own in the crowded bar.
He was glad the other guys had arrived early and claimed this area. From here they could observe everything happening from their out of the way corner.
“So, let’s get down to it.” Tompkins slapped a dime on the table and looked around at everyone seated there. “Dare for a Dime.”
Craig lifted a brow. “Two hours ago you were trying to bet me a hundred dollars to eat a pizza. Now it’s a dime? What happened? You lose all your money at one of the craps tables while I was in the men’s room?”
Fitz let out a laugh. “That’s very possible, I’m sure. But no, not in this case. Dare for a Dime is a team tradition. A game we play whenever we’re out drinking.”
“Sounds great.” Laughing, Craig rolled his eyes.
A dime wouldn’t get much nowadays. He was pretty sure even gumball machines took quarters.
“Tompkins has the dime so he gets to choose the man and set the dare,” Fitz explained. “Then, the guy who completes the dare gets the dime and the power to dare someone else.”
Craig still wasn’t all that impressed with the game. He supposed that showed in his expression since Clyde shook his head and said, “You gotta understand. It’s not the value of the dime—”
“It’s the valor of the dare,” Fitz finished for his teammate.
“Exactly.” Tompkins nodded and pushed the dime toward Craig. “So you’re up, Dawson. This dare is yours.”
Knowing Tompkins, Craig was a little concerned over what this dare might entail.
He really should have sucked it up and gone out with the guys from his own unit. They were out for an insanely expensive steak dinner at the restaurant inside The Palms. He couldn’t bring himself to drop that much cash for a piece of steak he could probably grill better himself at home.
Now it seemed his frugality was going to cost him in other ways, unless he could get out of this dare.
He eyed the dime and grasped at his one chance for escape. “It’s your team tradition. You guys should play. I don’t want to butt in.”
Clyde grinned and slid the dime closer to Craig. “Good try, kid, but no go. This one is all yours.”
Now they were calling him kid too. He stifled a sigh regretting his choice to join them even more.
“And remember that after you complete your challenge, you get to choose the dare and the man,” Fitz reminded.
It might be worth it just to get revenge on Tompkins and teach him a lesson . . . if Craig could come up with a suitable challenge as punishment. He’d have to think about it, but until then he had a dare to complete.
Craig sighed and glanced toward Tompkins. “All right. Shoot. What’s the dare?”
Tompkins grinned so wide Craig had to wonder if he’d just made a huge mistake.COLLAPSE